The Grassy Green Pillow

Tombstone erected by Francis O'Neill in memory of his parents (Caheragh, Co. Cork)
Tombstone erected by Francis O’Neill in memory of his parents

On a recent visit to West Cork, I had the fortune to properly explore Tralibane and the surrounding area. I was bowled over by the hospitality of the people there, especially Mrs. Wilcox of the Francis O’Neill Memorial committee, who provided me with lots of insight into the O’Neill history and landmarks.

I was surprised to learn that O’Neill had erected a tombstone in his parents’ memory in nearby Caheragh cemetery. This must have been in 1906 on his first proper visit home (with his wife Anna) after retiring as chief of police. The inscription reads:

Erected By

Captain Daniel Francis O’Neill

Chicago, USA

To the Memory of his Parents

John O’Neill of Tralibane

Died Nov 1867 Aged 66 Years


Catherine O’Mahoney [Obscured]

Died 1900 Aged 88 Years

Requieseant In Pace


Francis O'Neill parents' tombstone detail
Francis O’Neill parents’ tombstone detail

In contrast to the grand style of the O’Neill mausoleum in Mount Olivet Cemetery in Chicago, the grave is simple but poignant. O’Neill left home and his parents in difficult circumstances in 1865 to sail the world. His father died soon after in 1867. His mother passed away a few years before his return to Tralibane in 1906, now a celebrated police chief and collector of Irish music.

Today, the graveyard is a quiet place with some headstones in poor condition. In places, as you can see in the picture above, there are only grass-covered mounds left to mark who was buried there. Here is a fine version of the sombre tune ‘The Grassy Green Pillow’ from the O’Neill collection. It is played by Franz Sanger and Susan Frances.

2 thoughts on “The Grassy Green Pillow”

  1. I taught myself how to read eroded tombstones:
    Feel each letter with a finger (like Braille), and follow it with a lead pencil. Marking the letters with pencil makes the letters more visible in person and in photos.

    BTW: An archaeologist suggested using a UV light to “rake” across letters from the side when it is dark out. The UV light makes the depth of the carved letters more visible.

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